Hong Kong Disneyland hopes to boost business with a HK$10.9 billion expansion – more than half of which will be funded by taxpayers. The new area will feature – in a global first – zones based on themes from its blockbuster Frozen and Marvel superhero films.
The park will increase its attractions from 110 to 130 between 2018 and 2023, a move that is expected to create 5,000 to 8,000 jobs across the tourism industry.
As the Lantau theme park’s largest shareholder, the government will inject HK$5.8 billion – subject to Legislative Council approval on Monday – while the rest will be covered by the Walt Disney Company.
Commerce Minister Greg So Kam-leung played down concerns about the difficulty in securing funding from a deeply divided legislature, insisting it was “the right time” to expand for the sake of long-term tourism development. So urged lawmakers to look at the “big picture” and approve the spending of public money.
“The capital injection by the government for the expansion and development plan will be capped at HK$5.8 billion,” he said. “[Disney] is confident that the works will be completed within budget.”
Despite dwindling tourist numbers, So expects the park’s new offerings to help attract up to 9.5 million visitors annually by 2025, up from 6.8 million in 2015.
The expansion comes after the park’s first annual loss in five years and large-scale layoffs earlier this year. It lost HK$148 million last year, while the number of visitors dropped 9.3 per cent.
Under the project, the park’s iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle will be renovated. It is expected to shut down next year and reopen in 2019, Disney design executive Doris Woodward said.
Superheroes from the Marvel comics series will arrive at the park in phases, with the first attraction, “Iron Man Experience”, launching in January, with more to come, Woodward said.
The Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu was concerned that Disneyland might feel the pressure to increase its admission fees in the future, resulting in fewer locals visiting the park.
Chinese University’s business school assistant dean Simon Lee Siu-po told Young Post yesterday that it was worth spending HK$5.8 billion on expansion at Disneyland because there are no other large-scale tourist attractions being built in the city.
“Last year, Disneyland ranked 19th in CNN’s list of the world’s 25 most popular amusement parks. This shows that the theme park has played a major role in attracting global tourists, although most of them came from the mainland. Our competitiveness will fall behind other countries’ if we don’t have anything new in the coming years,” Lee said.